Back to the workplace
We care about the health of your company, and we want to help you make returning to work as safe and healthy as possible for your employees. That’s why we developed this toolkit with recommendations and guidance to help your office, factory, warehouse, school, restaurant, or in-field workers return to work in ways that support their physical and mental well-being. We’ll be updating the toolkit periodically to provide up-to-date guidelines and tools. This page was last updated on February 3, 2021.
Our toolkit provides guidance from the CDC, our clinical team, and other resources you can use to keep everyone knowledgeable about staying healthy in the midst of COVID-19. We hope you find the guidance helpful.
We encourage frequent and transparent communication with your employees.
Research by consulting firm McKinsey & Company suggests that most companies are providing new communication channels and have leaders visibly role modelling safe hygiene and other behaviors. Many are also implementing return-to-work training to help employees feel comfortable.
Helping members during the COVID-19 pandemic
We’ve made temporary changes to our plan benefits to help ensure members have the greatest access to care during the pandemic. We also have listed a number of tips and resources they can consider to protect their health, safety, and well-being. Read our tips.
Is it safe to bring my employees back?
According to the CDC, there is no definitive test to determine if it’s safe to return to the workplace, but there are steps you can take to keep your workplace as safe as possible. The U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services has released a joint publication discussing preparing workplaces for COVID-19.
Wearing masks and washing hands
The CDC suggests that wearing masks is an important tool in preventing the spread of the virus. One phrase now commonly associated with mask wearing is “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.” In Pennsylvania, masks are now a requirement anywhere outside of the home for those over the age of two with some limited exceptions. This includes most employees of a business as well as customers. The Pennsylvania state website offers additional mask guidance, including a business’ responsibilities to its employees and customers.
Dr. Jennifer Chambers, Capital Blue Cross chief medical officer, shared an important message about proper mask use. Please watch and feel free to share it with your employees.
Washing or sanitizing hands and wearing masks are likely the easiest steps employees can take to contribute to a healthy work environment. You may want to consider scheduling breaks for employees to wash their hands, or hanging signs in the washrooms about best handwashing practices. You also may want to consider setting up hand sanitizing stations around your workplace.
Keeping employees safe
Guidelines for a safe workplace
The single most important thing employees can do to keep the workplace safe is to stay home if they are sick.
We recommend that employers work with legal counsel and Human Resources to determine if you are able to provide employees the ability to work from home if necessary.
According to CDC guidance, three key points to maintaining a safe workplace are:
- Maintain distance between employees.
- Require employees to wear masks some or all of the time that they are at work.
- Encourage employees to wash or sanitize their hands regularly.
Where possible, CDC guidance recommends:
- Spread employee workspaces apart, distancing work stations at least six feet from each other, or install a barrier between them, like a sheet of Plexiglas.
- Limit seating arrangements that have employees directly facing each other and repurpose spaces such as conference rooms and out-of-the-way common spaces for employee seating.
- Consider staggering shifts to limit the number of employees in the building at one time.
- Encourage employees to maintain distance, even if it feels awkward. This includes eliminating physical contact such as handshakes or high-fives.
Pennsylvania specifically has safety mandates that employers must comply with—the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s website also offers industry-specific resources that can provide guidance on additional safety practices based on the type of work performed at different businesses.
To prepare for employees’ return to office, the majority of employers have already implemented or plan to implement new working practices to limit contact during the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey & Company, 98% of companies are limiting larger gatherings and meetings or are switching to video conferences, and 65% are staggering work shifts or limiting capacity in elevators. Other practices being put in place include temperature checks for employees, closing common areas and communal food and beverage equipment, and the use of other personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, such as gloves and face shields.
As employees return to work, you can hang posters or hand out desk posters to remind everyone of healthy workplace habits, government mandates, or newly enacted policies.
We have provided examples of several signs and handouts, available below, as suggestions to help you get started.
- Mask Up poster
- Mask Up poster (Español)
- No Mask, No Service
- Breakroom poster
- Breakroom poster (Español)
- Workspace poster
- Workspace poster (Español)
- Elevator poster
- Elevator poster (Español)
- Employee handout
- Employee handout (Español)
The scientific and medical communities have been working hard and are continually learning more about COVID-19. With new information comes new recommendations to help keep yourself and others safe. For the most current list of recommendations, please visit the Center for Disease Prevention (CDC).
Vaccinations for employees
We at Capital Blue Cross encourage all of our members to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, getting vaccinated is not a requirement of Capital Blue Cross nor the U.S. government. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated its guidance for employee vaccination. We recommend you consult with your own Human Resources Department for additional direction regarding the EEOC’s guidance.
The federal government is covering the cost of the vaccine, and payers (health plans and self-funded groups) must cover the cost of the vaccines’ administration, including the office visit when the vaccine is given. That means Capital Blue Cross’ medical and prescription drug benefits will cover the vaccine administration services with no cost to your employees during the public health emergency.
If members have Capital Blue Cross medical and prescription drug coverage, the administration of the vaccine will be covered according to the type of provider from which they receive the vaccine. If a member gets the vaccine from a doctor or other non-pharmacy healthcare professional, the cost of administration and the office visit will be covered by their medical benefits. If a member gets the vaccine from a pharmacy, it will be covered by their prescription drug benefits.
Monitoring COVID-19 surges
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recently released an early monitoring dashboard to the public.
This tool can help employers monitor changes in COVID-19 cases on a county level from week to week so that you can determine if policies should be updated.
According to a report by Morning Consult, 8 in 10 employees say they are satisfied with how their company has handled the transition from office to working at home. Additionally, the majority of employees feel more comfortable working from home than in an office and say the quality of their work has increased since working from home.
Should the pandemic reach a point where shutdowns are again mandated, you will likely have questions about employee health coverage through more quarantines.
When it comes to maintaining employees’ health insurance through a shutdown of in-person working, individual groups set eligibility, provided that eligibility falls within our minimum requirements. On March 31, we relaxed our minimum requirements for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our most recent guidelines can be found in our eligibility FAQ.
What to do if an employee voluntarily discloses that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19
If an employee voluntarily reports a COVID-19 diagnosis, the CDC recommends that employee should self-isolate until:
- Three days have passed with no fever and
- Symptoms have improved and
- 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared
If an employee, or anyone else in the facility, reports a COVID-19 diagnosis, the CDC recommends the facility be cleaned and disinfected. The CDC offers guidance on cleaning plans and steps for disinfecting a facility both before and after identifying a COVID-19 case.
In Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf has issued building safety measures that should be followed.
Mental health support for employees
Employees find themselves in stressful times—COVID-19, quarantine, and returning to work all have the potential to induce stress and anxiety. Capital Blue Cross members can call the behavioral health number on their ID card for 24/7 support to answer questions about benefits, available services, and finding providers. They can also find more information about their benefits by logging into their secure account.
Capital Blue Cross’ network of providers includes:
- Marriage/family therapists
- Clinical social workers
- Alcohol/drug addiction counselors
If members would prefer not to leave their homes for care, many have access to mental and behavioral health providers through Capital Blue Cross’ Virtual Care app.
We have extended the member cost share waiver for both medical and behavioral health visits on our Virtual Care app through December 31, 2021, making these telehealth visits free to all members.
Additionally, virtual dental visits through Capital Blue Cross Dental will also have costs waived through December 31, 2021. Employees should contact their preferred dental office and ask if that provider is currently offering virtual visits for urgent dental issues.
With so much happening regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to provide you with guidance about your benefits. If you have general questions about your coverage during the pandemic, please contact your producer or Capital Blue Cross account executive.
The information on this site is intended to provide general guidance in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Capital Blue Cross does not provide medical advice. Please consult your legal and human resources counsel for information specific to your business. Capital Blue Cross does not assume any liability associated with your use of, or reliance on, any of the suggested guidance provided here.